Monday, February 4, 2008

Hey, Ho,Lets Go, Hey, Ho, Merlot!

After all the bad press that Merlot wine got from the movie "Sideways" all I can say it that Miles should have been a little more specific about what Merlot he wouldn't drink. I had a chance to taste eleven wines from St. Emilion last week. All of these wines were primarily Merlot with the second largest component being Cabernet Franc and a couple had a smidge of Cabernet Sauvignon.
St. Emillion is a gorgeous mid-evil village just outside of Bordeaux. The area is referred to as the Right Bank (as opposed to the Medoc and the Left Bank). Unlike the Medoc, the scenery is stunning and the village is a World Heritage site. This area was not classified in 1855 and thus there are no 1st Growth St. Emilion wines. The area finally classified itself in 1954 and to their credit they update the classification every ten years. Without a doubt the top wines from this area would have swollen the ranks of the 1st and 2nd Growth Estates had they been included in the 1855 classification.
We tasted wines from as recent a vintage as 2001 and as early as 1966. This was a rare treat to be able to taste this many wines of this quality at one sitting.
I will list the wines youngest to oldest and include my notes.

2001 Chateau Angelus: Perfume nose, very aromatic, some cola notes. Fruit forward and needing a little more time. This was my favorite wine of the night even if it was a baby.

1998 Chateau Gracia: Very new world in nose (big vanilla) and fruit (bright cherry). This could easily be mistaken for a California wine This is a wine that Parker loves and it is considered a Garagiste wine. The fruit is from a 4.4 acre Grand Cru vineyard and the wine is 85% Merlot & 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon which is aged in 100% new French oak.

1998 Chateau Pavie Decesse: Fennel seed on the nose followed by sweet Cherry fruit.

1998 Chateau Tour du Pas St. Georges: Black licorice on the nose with a hint of mint on top of red Cherry fruit.

1996 Chateau Beau Sejour Becot: Savory nose, smoky cherry fruit, a hollow middle but a decent finish.

1993 Chateau Cheval Blanc: Tobacco on the nose with a sweet cherry fruit. Nicely balanced and a strong finish. This is one of the "Big Boys" of St. Emilion and it is the first time I have had this label (thanks Steve and Kimberly) This is the wine that Miles of Sideways fame was drinking out of a paper cup while scarfing a burger. Did he know that this wine was 66% Cabernet Franc and 34% Merlot?

1990 Chateau L'Arrossee: Savory nose, concentrated cherry liquor giving way to a cola overtone.

1989 Chateau Grand Mayne: Smoke on the nose layered with fennel/cedar. Good fruit still left from what was a great vintage in Bordeaux.

1982 Chateau Larmande: Smokey nose, fennel seed, sweet fruit and seemingly slightly thin without much finish.

1982 Chateau La Dominic: Savory nose with a floral component. Secondary fruit character is starting to show.

1966 Chateau Troplong Mondot: Smoked meat on the nose, savory, red fruit with tobacco and a terrific finish. This is why people buy and age Bordeaux wines. The level of complexity showed itself as this wine sat for over and hour. Tasting after an hour the wine still had a nice concentrated fruit character but it was showing almost a caramel sugar on the nose-Too bad I didn't buy a case of this when I was 7 years old.